- Type: Castles/Palaces, Sightseeing
- Time to Spend: 2 hours to Half Day
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Buckingham Palace, the London home of Queen Elizabeth II, is open for tour (except for the Queen's private quarters, of course) in the summers when Her Majesty is away on vacation. On the tour, you'll have access to the State Rooms where the Queen and members of the Royal Family host guests for State, ceremonial, and official affairs. Opulently accented with chandeliers, candelabra, paintings by Van Dyck and Canaletto, and exquisite English and French furniture, these rooms display some of the most magnificent pieces from the Royal Collection. Along with the grand interiors, the State Rooms are also a witness to history. Those of you who followed the royal wedding closely will recognize the Throne Room, which served as the backdrop to the official wedding photographs of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
For tours in the summer, recent travelers suggest taking advantage of the audio guide (included with admission), so that you hear a detailed history of each room at your own pace. The Palace advises you set aside at least two hours to see the State Rooms (and that you wear comfortable shoes), while recent travelers advise that you use the facilities prior to the start of the tour; there are no public restrooms available until you reach the Garden Cafe, on the West Terrace. Tour prices start at £19 GBP (about $30 USD) for adults; seniors (over 60) and students cost £17.50 GBP (about $28 USD); youths under 17 cost £10.85 GBP (about $18 USD); and children under 5 enter for free. If you're in London while the Queen is still in town, you can book a private guided tour, but it will cost you.
If you'd rather skip the admission fees altogether, you can still experience Buckingham Palace by witnessing the storied Changing of the Guard (also referred to as Guard Mounting), which occurs daily at 11:30 a.m., from May until late July, and on alternate days the rest of the year (except during inclement weather). You'll find Buckingham Palace off the Victoria, Green Park, or Hyde Park Corner Tube stops.